Today (04 March 2022), user-led learning disability campaign group Pembrokeshire People First wrote to the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, about the Government’s failure to provide an Easy Read version of the Human Rights Act Reform Consultation Paper. Pembrokeshire People First are leading a group of organisations run by and for people with learning disabilities in this action, including My Life My Choice, Warrington Speak Up and All Wales People First.  The letter was produced in collaboration with British Institute of Human Rights and Pembrokeshire People First instructed Rook Irwin Sweeney solicitors.

What happened?

On 14th December 2021, the Government released a Consultation Paper setting out plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. The Government asked 29 questions to gather people’s views on the plans and gave the public 12 weeks to respond, with the Consultation due to end on 08 March 2022.

The Consultation Paper is 123-pages long and is written in confusing and technical language.

"Too much questions and not much information." 

- Lee (Member of Pembrokeshire People First Campaigns Group)

The Government did not release an Easy Read version along with the original Consultation Paper. An “Easy Read” document is one which presents text in an understandable way and was created to help people with learning disabilities access information. The Government’s definition of Easy Read includes that “easy read uses pictures to support the meaning of text”.

Instead, the Government released a “word-only Easy Read version” of the Consultation Paper on 24 February 2022. This gives people who use this version just 12 days to respond.

"It's disgusting that they have only given us seven days to look at this, but given other people twelve weeks. It's Gobbledygook to me."

- Courtney (Member of Pembrokeshire People First Campaigns Group)

There are no images in this version, and it is missing a lot of important context, evidence and information. The Government said it “apologise[s] that it Is a text-only version and are working with suppliers to update this”. As of 04 March 2022 (4 days before the Consultation closes), it still has not been updated.

On 03 March, BIHR wrote to the Joint Committee on Human Rights attaching an Easy Read letter signed by 205 individuals and organisations who are concerned about the lack of accessibility. Click here to read this letter.

Why do we think this Consultation process is unlawful?

We believe the Justice Secretary is acting unlawfully by not producing an adequate “Easy Read” version of the Consultation and by not extending the Consultation period to allow people who use this version sufficient time to respond.

The Government is required under the Equality Act 2010 to make “reasonable adjustments” to allow people to participate in consultations on matters that will affect them. We do not believe they have done this.

The Government is also not allowed to discriminate against people under both the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. We believe that giving people who need an Easy Ready version of the Consultation less time to respond amounts to discrimination.

The Government is also required by public law to give sufficient reasons and information for its consultations and allow adequate time for response. We believe the lack of information in, and time allowed for, the “Easy Read” version mean they have not met these criteria.

What does the letter ask for?

The letter asks the Justice Secretary to produce an amended Easy Read version of the Consultation which has been consulted on by Pembrokeshire People First and other disabled people’s organisations.

It also asks the Justice Secretary to extend the consultation period, so it closes 12 weeks from the date of publication of the amended copy.

As the Consultation is currently due to close on 08 March 2022, the letter asks the Justice Secretary to urgently respond by 4pm on 07 March 2022.

"I feel like the voices of people with learning disabilities aren’t heard" - Lucy (Member of Pembrokeshire People First Campaigns Group)

We will continue to add any updates here.